Selecting The Right Home Health Agency

As the population of the nation ages, more people are finding themselves in what has been called the “sandwich generation”. They are simultaneously responsible for caring for their aging parents as well as their own children. They are “sandwiched” in between these two responsibilities. Chances are a significant number will be making some major health care decisions on behalf of parents-sometimes with their input and sometimes without, as necessity dictates.

This can be an uncomfortable and sometimes tense situation. One thing you’ll want to be certain you consider is a qualified home heath agency rather than a nursing home or care center. Almost without exception, patients will do better when treated at home than in any other environment.

Services offered by home health agencies can vary. Some offer a broad range of services from basic assistance with routine tasks such as bathing, cooking or simple housework, to round the clock continuous nursing care or hospice services. It is important to consider what future needs might arise and select a home health agency that will be able to meet those needs.

This is an important consideration as your loved one advances in years and becomes less able to cope with normal daily activities. It is comforting to know that the home health agency you have selected can continue to provide care and your family member won’t have the added stress of moving or becoming accustomed to new care givers.

Home health agencies such as Family Home Care & Hospice (FHC), based in Spokane, Washington, serve as a prime example of an organization with the resources to “grow” with the patient.

“We have specifically planned our service offerings so that we can continue to serve patients in their homes for as long as medically practical,” explained Michael Nowling, President of FHC. “All our experience points to better outcomes for both the patient and the family if they can be effectively cared for within their own homes.”

Indeed, FHC has been recognized by Medicare as among the top 1 percent of home health agencies in Washington State and among the top 3 percent of home health agencies in the nation. This recognition is based on extensive monitoring of patient outcomes and lends credibility to their stated goal of keeping patients in their own homes as long as possible. Medicare maintains a database of information about home health agencies and their patient outcomes. It’s a good idea to visit their website and look at the data when considering a home health agency. You can log on at http://www.medicare.gov/HHCompare/home.asp.

In addition to the customary slate of services offered by a home health agency, it would be advisable for you to ask about what specialized services are available. Many home health agencies have the same list of standard services that will fit the needs of most patients quite well, but some patient needs are more specialized and require services that are more difficult to find. Often these services include wound care specialists, primary care medical services and enteral therapy. Ask your home health agency if some of these hard-to-find specialties are available.

One of the challenges in running a successful home health agency is finding and keeping qualified staff. It is in the best interest of your loved one to make certain that the home health agency you select has both an exhaustive background checking protocol and a continuing training program in place.

“We’ve often heard that it is tough to land a job at FHC,” Nowing noted, “but we believe it should be. FHC has grown to become the organization it is primarily as a result of how picky we are in our hiring practices. Because we’re so selective we have a unique group of employees who are interested in maintaining the highest standards of professionalism. They are dedicated to their patients and they work hard. They tend to stay at FHC for a long time. This makes a big difference to our patients and their families especially as it relates to positive outcomes. This is how we are able to be ranked so highly by Medicare.”

With regard to the skill levels and training of home health staff, it is a good idea to find a home health agency that places an emphasis on keeping their people trained in the latest therapies and techniques.

“There is so much specialized and highly technical medical equipment which can now be used in a home environment,” continued Nowling. “We think it’s an important priority of a good home heath agency to make sure that our professional staff are always up to date with the latest advances in care.”

No home health decision process would be complete without considering insurance coverage. Medicaid and Medicare are accepted by most home health agencies as is private insurance including long term care. This is a high priority question and should be addressed early on in your search. Insurance coverages will vary not only with home health agencies but with insurance companies. Trying to interpret the legal documents associated with your policy may not be as fruitful for you as a simple call to a customer service representative at your insurance company.

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